Bulimia and Dental Problems

Bulimia is an eating disorder involving a distorted body image and an obsessive need to lose weight at nearly any cost. The disorder is characterized by bouts of binge eating followed by guilt, shame, and a compulsion to get rid of the food quickly, usually through self-induced vomiting or use of laxatives or diuretics.

Damage to the teeth is common, especially for individuals who purge by vomiting.

How Bulimia Affects the Teeth

Dental problems related to bulimia can be devastating, but the damage frequently isn’t addressed because sufferers are embarrassed or fearful of admitting the problem to medical professionals.

Damage occurs when the teeth are repeatedly exposed to vomit, which contains corrosive gastric acids. Eventually, the acids erode the enamel surface. As the enamels wears away, the pulp may be exposed, which leads to sensitivity and pain. In some cases, the gums may bleed.

Additionally, people who binge frequently tend to eat a lot of sweets and sugary drinks that promote tooth decay and exacerbate loss of enamel.

If you binge and purge frequently, the best course of action is to seek treatment at a drug and alcohol treatment center. However, if you aren’t yet ready to seek treatment, you can take steps to minimize damage to your teeth in the meantime. Here are seven suggestions that may help:

  1. Brush your teeth twice every day, using a soft-bristled brush to prevent further abrasion. Use regular toothpaste and avoid products containing abrasives.
  2. Clean between your teeth with dental floss regularly.
  3. Rinse your mouth immediately after vomiting, using a fluoride mouthwash or large pinch of baking soda in a glass of water. If you don’t have access to those things, plain water is much better than nothing.
  4. Don’t brush your teeth for at least an hour after vomiting. If you brush immediately, you may grind stomach acids more deeply into the surface of your teeth.
  5. Use a straw when drinking fruit juice or soda, as the straw will direct acidic substances away from the teeth.
  6. Chew sugar-free gum to promote salivation and remove residue from the surface of the teeth.
  7. Drink water throughout the day.

Talk to your Dentist

See your dentist regularly and have your teeth professionally cleaned twice a year. Your dentist will fill cavities and take steps to slow the progress of gum and enamel disease.

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